50 record-breaking fish caught in the US

Published 6:00 pm Friday, December 16, 2022

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50 record-breaking fish caught in the US

For thousands of years—well over 100,000 by some estimates—humankind has fished the world’s waterways and oceans. Scientists have identified evidence of the practice in everything from cave paintings to archeological finds. While initially used as a means of survival, fishing has evolved into a hobby, a sport, and a huge commercial industry. In fact, today, some 600 million people globally depend on fishing for their livelihoods. It is also among the most popular outdoor hobbies in the U.S.

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in 2020, more Americans went fishing than in any year in the previous decade. According to a 2022 study, many first-time anglers tried fishing to spend more time with friends and family in a socially distanced way. Others sought to replace hobbies they could no longer do because of the pandemic.

Although some competitive people compete aggressively in fishing tourneys and derbies, you don’t have to be a professional angler to catch a record-breaking fish. Marinas and tackle shops around the country allow anglers to weigh their catch on a certified International Game Fish Association scale and compare stats in the IGFA’s online records database. Sport-fishing enthusiasts can even have their scales certified by the IGFA for a $40 fee.

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Stacker compiled a list of the top 50 record-breaking fish caught in the U.S. by weight using data from Land Big Fish. Sharks are not included in this roundup. The fish pictured below are not the actual record catch.

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Closeup Channel catfish underwater

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#50. Channel catfish: 58 pounds

– Location: Lake Moultrie, South Carolina
– Record set by W.H. Whaley in 1905

USFWS employees release a pallid sturgeon into the Yellowstone River.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service // Wikimedia Commons

#49. Pallid sturgeon: 60 pounds

– Location: Yellowstone River – near Sidney, Montana
– Record set by Gene Sattler in 1979

Freshly caught Lake Trout in shallow water

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#48. Lake trout: 63 pounds, 1.92 ounces

– Location: Lake Superior, Ontario
– Record set by Hubert Hammers in 1952

smiling person holding a large silver green muskie fish

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#47. Muskellunge: 69 pounds, 15 ounces

– Location: St. Lawrence River, New York
– Record set by Arthur Lawton in 1905

Grass carp, underwater photo in lake.

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#46. White amur (Grass Carp): 70 pounds

– Location: Guntersville Reservoir (Nickajack tailwater), Tennessee
– Record set by Chad A. Killian in 2005

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Grass Carp swimming underwater

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#45. Grass carp: 73 pounds

– Location: Guntersville Reservoir, Alabama
– Record set by Bradley D. Bridges, Sr. in 2012

Hands holding bigmouth buffalo

Alus164 // Wikimedia Commons

#44. Bigmouth buffalo: 73 pounds, 2 ounces

– Location: Lake Koshkonong, Wisconsin
– Record set by unknown in 2004

Carp fish swimming in pond

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#43. Carp: 74 pounds

– Location: Pelahatchie Lake, Mississippi
– Record set by Curtis Wade in 1963

Albacore or longfin tuna caught off Atlantic Ocean.

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#42. Longfin albacore: 74 pounds, 10.5 ounces

– Location: Atlantic Ocean, New York
– Record set by John Maguire in 2000

Three caught redfish laying on dock

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#41. Red drum: 75 pounds

– Location: Atlantic Ocean – Murrells Inlet, South Carolina
– Record set by A. J. Taylor in 1905

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Coastal Red Drum in a person's hands.

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#40. Channel bass: 75 pounds

– Location: Atlantic Ocean, Delaware
– Record set by James Vandetti in 1976

A Shortbill Spearfish caught off Great Barrier Island, New Zealand.

Nholtzha // Wikimedia Commons

#39. Spearfish: 76 pounds, 12.8 ounces

– Location: Pacific Ocean – Maui – North Shore, Hawaii
– Record set by Alan Cadiz in 2011

Great barracuda fish swimming underwater

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#38. Great barracuda: 77 pounds

– Location: Pacific Ocean – Olowalu – Maui, Hawaii
– Record set by Dean Hayashi in 1992

Person holding a large dolphin fish.

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#37. Dolphin: 77 pounds, 8 ounces

– Location: Seabrook Island, South Carolina
– Record set by R. Riggs in 1905

Striped Bass underwater

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#36. Striped bass: 78 pounds, 8 ounces

– Location: Atlantic Ocean – Atlantic City, New Jersey
– Record set by Al McReynolds in 1905

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Giant Moray Eel (Gymnothorax javanicus).

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#35. Moray eel: 81 pounds

– Location: Pacific Ocean – North Kona, Hawaii
– Record set by Jordan Kilkenny in 2011

Big Atlantic sturgeon floats in deep blue salt water.

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#34. Atlantic sturgeon: 82 pounds

– Location: Atlantic Ocean – Sandy Hook, New Jersey
– Record set by Glen Lasco in 1905

Dorado fish swimming by boat.

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#33. Dorado: 82 pounds

– Location: Pacific Ocean – Kailua-Kona – Island of Hawai’i, Hawaii
– Record set by Kathy Hunter in 1987

School of greater amberjack (Seriola dumerili).

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#32. Greater amberjack: 85 pounds

– Location: Atlantic Ocean – Cape May, New Jersey
– Record set by Edwin Metzner in 1905

Person holding large ling cod

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#31. Ling cod: 85 pounds

– Location: Atlantic Ocean, New York
– Record set by Fred Shay Jr. in 1984

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Cropped view of person holding smallmouth buffalo fish

Ohio DNR // Wikimedia Commons

#30. Smallmouth buffalo: 88 pounds

– Location: Lake Wylie, North Carolina
– Record set by Tony Crawford in 1993

Albacore Tuna coming out of the water

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#29. Albacore tuna: 90 pounds

– Location: Santa Cruz, California
– Record set by Don Giberson in 1997

Bighead Carp swimming underwater in lake

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#28. Bighead carp: 90 pounds

– Location: Guntersville Reservoir, Tennessee
– Record set by Jeffery J. Rorex in 2005

Illustration of a black buffalo fish on green background

USFWS National Image Library // Wikimedia Commons

#27. Black buffalo: 92 pounds, 8 ounces

– Location: Lake Maumelle, Arkansas
– Record set by Kenny DeLuca in 2001

White sturgeon fishing catch and release.

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#26. White sturgeon: 96 pounds

– Location: Kootenai River, Montana
– Record set by Herb Stout in 1905

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Chinook Salmon Underwater During Spawning

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#25. Chinook (King) Salmon: 97 pounds, 4 ounces

– Location: Kenai River, Alaska
– Record set by Lester Anderson in 1905

Atlantic Cod swimming underwater.

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#24. Atlantic cod: 98 pounds, 12 ounces

– Location: Atlantic Ocean – Isle of Shoals, New Hampshire
– Record set by Alphonse Bielevich in 1969

Black drum fish swimming underwater

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#23. Black drum: 115 pounds

– Location: Atlantic Ocean – Delaware Bay, Delaware
– Record set by Kenneth H. Smith in 1978

Sailfish hunting underwater

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#22. Sailfish: 119 pounds

– Location: Pacific Ocean – Kailua-Kona – Island of Hawai’i, Hawaii
– Record set by Ed Sceery in 1983

Person holding a flathead catfish

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#21. Flathead catfish: 123 pounds

– Location: Elk City Reservoir, Kansas
– Record set by Ken Paulie in 1998

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A big skate laying on the ocean floor.

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#20. Big skate: 130 pounds

– Location: Pacific Ocean – Double Bluff, Washington
– Record set by Dan Cartwright in 1986

White marlin fish jumping out of water

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#19. White marlin: 137 pounds, 8 ounces

– Location: Atlantic Ocean – Hudson Canyon, New Jersey
– Record set by Mike Marchell in 1905

blue catfish fish being held horizontally by a smiling person.

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#18. Blue catfish: 143 pounds

– Location: Buggs Island Lake (Kerr Reservoir), Virginia
– Record set by Richard “Nick” Anderson in 2011

Paddlefish swimming in water

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#17. Paddlefish: 144 pounds

– Location: Kansas River, Kansas
– Record set by Ralph B. Westerman in 2004

Amberjack swimming in water

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#16. Amberjack: 151 pounds, 8 ounces

– Location: Pacific Ocean – Kailua-Kona – Island of Hawai’i, Hawaii
– Record set by Justin Lazar in 2010

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Giant trevally swimming in water.

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#15. Giant trevally: 191 pounds

– Location: Pacific Ocean – Lahaina – Maui, Hawaii
– Record set by Al Gadow in 1980

Alligator gar swimming underwater

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#14. Alligator gar: 279 pounds

– Location: Rio Grande River, Texas
– Record set by Bill Valverde in 1951

Halibut being lifted over the side of a fishing boat.

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#13. Pacific halibut: 288 pounds

– Location: Pacific Ocean – Swiftsure Bank, Washington
– Record set by Vic Stevens in 1989

Nighttime photo of a Warsaw Grouper.

NOAA Photo Library // Wikimedia Commons

#12. Warsaw grouper: 310 pounds

– Location: Atlantic Ocean – Murrells Inlet, South Carolina
– Record set by C. D. Pratt in 1905

Tuna fish swimming in ocean underwater.

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#11. Tuna: 322 pounds

– Location: Atlantic Ocean – Baltimore Canyan, Delaware
– Record set by Mike Horner in 1992

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Yellowfin Tuna swimming Underwater

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#10. Yellowfin tuna: 325 pounds

– Location: Pacific Ocean – Lanai, Hawaii
– Record set by Joey Cabell in 1990

Striped-Marlin swimming underwater.

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#9. Striped marlin: 339 pounds

– Location: Catalina Island, California
– Record set by Gary Jasper in 1985

Row of fresh chilled bigeye tunas ready for market

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#8. Bigeye tuna: 375 pounds, 8 ounces

– Location: Atlantic Ocean – Ocean City, Maryland
– Record set by Cecil Browne in 1977

A bottom feeding Alaskan halibut pulled to the surface by a sport fisher.

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#7. Halibut: 459 pounds

– Location: Pacific Ocean – Unalaska Bay, Alaska
– Record set by Jack Tragis in 1905

Sturgeon swimming in water


#6. Sturgeon: 468 pounds

– Location: San Pablo Bay, California
– Record set by Joey Pallotta in 1983

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Swordfish jumping out of water with fishing boat in background

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#5. Swordfish: 530 pounds

– Location: Atlantic Ocean – Wilmington Canyon, New Jersey
– Record set by Edmund Levitt in 1905

A rare giant black seabass with parasites attached to its head swims.

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#4. Giant seabass: 563 pounds

– Location: Pacific Ocean – Maui, Hawaii
– Record set by Russell Mori in 1989

Atlantic bluefin tuna swimming underwater

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#3. Bluefin tuna: 1,152 pounds

– Location: 30 miles S of South Pass, Louisiana
– Record set by Ron Roland in 2003

Black Marlin jumping out of the water.

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#2. Black marlin: 1,205 pounds

– Location: Pacific Ocean – Red Hill – Haleakala, Hawaii
– Record set by Lei Aloha in 1980

Jumping Marlin fish in ocean with lure

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#1. Blue marlin: 1,805 pounds

– Location: Pacific Ocean – Waianae – Oahu, Hawaii
– Record set by Gail Choy-Kaleiki in 1970

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